9 thoughts on “G.I’s Memories”
I remember the engineers who worked like Trojans relaying the concrete to re-build the airfield in the ’50s they worked day and night, a harder working bunch of guys I’ve never seen. This is a patch dedicated to them and given to me by Jim Costa [ Florida USA ]
Harry Nicholson, boiler man at Chelveston [ The Bloke ] as firemen called him, deceased now, for several decades he followed me to Molesworth and from there retired. Like wise Jack Dickerson, whom Patty Robinson referred to is also deceased,he was a barman at the Officers club at Yeldon which eventually wastransferred to the main part of the base, joining two Quonset huts together forming a new club.
Civil engineering officer at the time was Captain Brooks. I remember Colonel Robinson very well, no one was too low for him to speak too. I had several conversations with himalways about aircraft. I suppose.. truly an officer and a gentleman. Regarding Captain Madalena.. He was a Lt., Col., and deputy base commander. Another interesting piece for any past RB 66 crewmen. My neighbour, Richard Wilding, 19 years of age at the time
was a barman in the Officers club when it was transferred from Yeldon after coming in from a missionthey would say to him [ pull the drapes Dickie ] always referring to him as Dickie. I was also friendly with a guy by the name of S/Sgt Charlie Kapelka [ spelling may be wrong ] He was a munitions specialist, lived on base Monday to Fridaywent home to Newmarket Suffolk, on week ends Also a very good friend I did have was Captain Robert Satterfield..he sometimes flew the C47 gooney bird.. also referred to as the DC 3. I became friendly with him as he also doubled as the Civil Engineering officer. I have tried to find him over the years, but to no avail, the last I knew of him he was at Alconbury, he transferred to the 4th TAC Recon wing on the closure of Chelveston. If anyone could tell me anything about him I would appreciate it. It was Charlie Kapelka. Capt Satterfield and myself who carried out one of the last acts at Chelveston.we went around together policing up all U S Government property.
The first airplane to land on the completed runway at Chelveston was this funny little air plane. It was called a Miles Magister, a pre WWll trainer aircraft. It landed one sunny afternoon after a malfunction had occurred. On board was an RAF Flight Sergeant instructor and a cadet, with the reddest hair I have ever seen.The pilot was a Polish national, in the RAF of course. Buzz quickly went around the base that a colonel was very irate that an aircraft, not being American.. was the first to land on his newly laid concrete and was demanding, that it be dismantled and taken away by road as, letting it take off, also, was obviously against his train of thought but in the end common sense prevailed and it was repaired and allowed to take off. I was on the six to two shift [ morning ] this particular day and my fellow electrician who followed me on the two to ten shift in the afternoon, said when the plane took off in the evening, it put on a wonderful aerobic display for the A/P’s whose company the pilot had been in all the time during his stay at Chelveston. If there is still an A/P out there, who was every ones friend and called ” Tiny”. because he was a giant of a man, he will remember this, as the pilot and Tiny were always together.
In the early 60′s we didn’t make much money being in the USAF. anyway, the boys at the crash station were allowed to be on separate rations. We would buy food from the commissary and prepare our meals out on the flightline.
Asst., Chief T/Sgt Earl Moran would get the BIGGEST steak!! and cook it in front of all of us. So one day with a lot of kidding of the guys, he said “I dare anyone to to eat this steak” then he spit on the steak in the frying pan.So we all sat around and finally, Sgt Casey Kanolos got up to challenge him. Casey got a big cooking fork speared the steak and took it from the frying pan right before Moran’s eyes,took it to the cutting board near the sink. surgically removed the piece of steak with a knife, then washed the remaining part off “real” good in the sink. He then returned the steak to the skillet, albeit for the hole in the middleand ate it, piece for piece.telling old Earl Moran how “GOOD” it tasted, that was really funny.
‘ A fine day’
While visiting England a couple of years ago, we decided to walk from Raunds to the site of Chelveston A F B. It turned out to be quite an exciting day. First of all we walked around the front gate area, fences are up and that’s as far as we could get. We would have loved to have been able to go on base and roam around. So then, we decided to walk on to the village of Yeldon and try to see the old N. C. O. club. Are you with me so far, can’t you just picture it.? Upon arriving in Yeldon, we proceeded to look around the church and stopped
to admire one of the finest thatched cottages one could possibly see anywhere, anyway, then we walked up the road a little further and there it was, the old N. C. O. club, ‘ wow ‘, what flashbacks!. An old gentleman farmer was there, so I explained our situation to him and he agreed to let us look around.
We went into the building, climbing over his equipment and crawling over bales of hay and all at once there it was.The old bar area and with it, still intact, the ” Mural “, does anyone still remember it ?, a scene of New York, emphasizing the Statue of Liberty, and The Empire State building. After getting back out we thanked the farmer and then walked back to the Chelveston area.
We met some ladies who were living in the base housing area and introduced ourselves, their husbands were stationed at Molesworth. I explained that I had been stationed there in 1958 – 61 and they were full of questions about the old base, and the ‘ good old days ‘ at Chelveston. We then started on our walk back to Raunds, stopping on the way for a ‘ pint’ and a bag of ‘crisps’ at Chelveston pub. What a fine and wonderous day it was.
Hank Howard and Chief Al Wise
“Old Harry Nichols” The bloke. [ ministry boiler man Chelveston]
How many of you remember “Old Harry” the bloke?. He worked on Chelveston for the Ministry of Defence. He was a civilian boilerman and he kept the heat on at the main hangar, the clubs and the fire station. He was a colourful person, used to flog cigarettes and tell the worst stories. Loved to smoke American cigarettes. You could set your watch 5 days a week when he’d show up for coffee at the fire station. Rode around on an old black bicycle and lived in Raunds. Peddled home and back every day he worked, never owned a car. He was our main football pools man and horse bet runner, we used him as a bookie!!.. He was a great guy and loved Americans. We were always taken care of by Harry’s concerned attention. Many times he would eat lunch with us and enjoyed eating American cooked meals, as we cooked out at the Crash Station. Rain, fog, or snow, he was there on his bike for us guys.
Gary says, Here we go again, another holiday in England. Up early this morning what! should we do today?, I know, lets go to Kettering and Wicksteed park. So we get everyone together and head for the bus stop in Raunds square. The bus finally comes and we get on, I insist we sit up top, funny, no one else up here, must be a tourist thing, anyway, we’re on our way. First stop is Stanwyck, next Finedon, are you with us?, Burton Latimer, [home of Weetabix], Marions’ favourite cereal, not mine. Then comes Barton Seagrave, I’m having a good time, watching the English people or are they watching me?,How can they tell I’m American?. Finally we get to the park and after walking around for awhile and going on a couple of rides with the kids, old Gary, decides that he fancies a “hot dog”, the girls bring me one and as I look at it, I wondercan it be true, is everything really bigger in America !!
So I take the “DOG” and smother, plaster, it with mustard, just like I do at home. I take a bite, actually half of it and look around, why is everyone looking at me!. Then it hits me, “WOW”. my mouth is on fire, someone give me a drink, quick, Anyway, we must remember that, when we go to England, the mustard is so much hotter than at home. After a few more rides and a good walk around, I decided that I needed another one of those “dogs”. This time I put tomato sauce on it. After the bus ride back and finally arriving in Raunds, we picked up some fish and chips and a jar of pickled onions and had those for dinner. Couldn’t you just eat some of those ?, right about now.
B. S. A. Troop.
I was the scoutmaster of a troop of Boy Scouts at Chelveston, there were about 20 boys, mostly living in the Chelveston housing area, but also some dependent kids from Raunds, Chelveston, Higham and Rushden. Harvey Breeding [ a buddy I have recently located, living in Delaware ] helped me in the troop. One year we took the 20 boys in an Air Force truck to Wales. We actually climbed Mount Snowden. It was quite a challenge and if I had to do it over I would really have to think about it first. I remember one of the boys froze on me as we crossed a crag where we had heavy updrafts in the mountains and he was scared to proceed.
We also caught hell from a farmer who had sheep in a field when we took a wrong route through his field, sidestepping all the sheep dung!! He was shouting at us in Welsh and chased us with a big staff he used to herd his sheep. We took the boys to some castles around Caernarvan and went to the town with the longest name in the world think it had 32 lettersforget what it was now. Hank! was it.. “LLANFAIRPWLLGWYNGYLLGOGERYCHWYRNDROBWLLLLANTYSILIOGOGOGOCH” otherwise known as “Llanfair P.G” [ that’s more than 32 tho]
Ship or fly.
Our experiences going to and returning from Chelveston. First of all I spent several days at Manhattan beach AFS in NY before leaving for England in Jan 1958. I then flew out of McGuire AFB with a stopover in the Azores. landed somewhere in England, everything always seemed to happen at night in the dark. I had no idea where I was, or where I was going, then proceeded by train by myself to RAF Chelveston. It was Saturday night and they picked me up at the train station in Wellingborough. Took me to the base, and put me in a “Quonset” hut and told me to wait until Monday morning when I could check in. I was only 19 and had no idea what the hell I was doing, or how, or where I had been. Anyway, after being at Chelveston for just over 4 years and by now acquiring a wife and a son it was discharge time. Why still now the AF decided to give us the option of returning to the US by commercial carrier I do not know. Must have been some sort of “politics” involved somewhere. We decided to return by ship, the SS United States. The other choice was a commercial airliner. I know that there was at least one bus load of Air Force personnel and their dependents who left on that cold and dark morning from Chelveston. Of course it included my wife Marion, our son Andrew 18 months old and myself, We headed for Southampton and from there set sail for NY, NY., US of A. after 5 days at sea, with a wealth of pleasant experiences, we reached NY sailing by the “Statue of Liberty” What a thrilling sight. We had to get off the ship about 8 pm and then since we were so close to home we were able to get a bus and arrived in Stroudsburg around 3 in the morning. A few days later my dad took me to McGuire AFB.. where I was discharged on Jan 14th 1962 All in all I would say that the trip home was a very educational and eye opening experience for the 3 of us Since then we have gone on many many cruises but those had to be paid for by us, not the US Air Force Is there anyone out there that just might have been with us on that particular “crossing”
Lee [ Shorty ] Gordon.
I finished school in 1942 and started work January 1943 at Little Staughton airfield, where part of the Mighty Eighth were gradually establishing themselves, calling this, Station 127, 2nd SAD, [ Strategic Air Depot ] We had four GI’s seconded to work with us, two were plumbers, two electricians. A guy by the name of Cavalier was one of the electricians and he would occasionally take me around to his orderly room, where the guys would shower aircraft magazines on to me In one of them I read this account of one aircraft being shot down over a target area one parachute seen to deploy right away and was thought to be that of the ball turret gunner, and later to be confirmed that it was, as he was small enough to wear a chute in the ball and was quick to abandon ship, he of course was to become a POW.
His name was Lee [ Shorty ] Gordon. It didn’t end there though, as he made three escape attempts, and finally made it home to Chelveston.. on the third attempt, unannounced.. he has remained in my memory all these years I was over the moon when, in 1988 we met at the reunion of the 305th Can Do Boys I somehow think someone forewarned him about this devout English fan, as when we did meet in the Bedford Moat House Hotel, we met like brothers and stayed together most of the evening. On greeting him, I said, ” come on, I’ve been waiting for forty years to meet you” which made him laugh somewhat. We did correspond with one another on a regular basis, then his mail ceased.. and I couldn’t find out what happened to him.. I finally found the 305th Bomb Group association web site and found out what I didn’t want to hear, he had been bed ridden for quite awhile, suffering a stroke and dementia, I was given his address and phone number at the care home. I sent him this photo, as I thought it would be the best way to communicate with him. I got a nice letter from his daughter telling me that he had the picture on the wall of his room, which would mean he was still remembering me, perhaps. He then passed away, peacefully in his sleep, November 14, at the age of 84, funny really as this is round about the time I sent the picture. So tomorrow I am going up to Chelveston to sit there awhile as this is his interment day, sorry to be so sad, but this is it. Dennis